My grandparents are visiting this week and we decided to make use of the sunny weather to revisit the Botanical Gardens. Our goal was the Chinese Hillside Garden, but we stopped on our way in to examine this experiment being grown along the side of the bridge that leads into the grounds from the visitor centre.
These are all species of carrot and the goal is to compare nutrient levels to see if any were lost during domestication. As you can see, despite growing side by side in the same set up they’re already showing significant variation in growth, though what this means for nutrient content is unknown. A staff member is on hand to explain the experiment to guests and once again I was impressed by the holistic approach to visitor education taken by the Gardens, where information about the plants is integrated into the environment without becoming dry and the explanations are clear without being patronising.
To get to the Chinese Hillside Garden you have to head up through the Arboretum, but its not difficult to find (unlike the Scottish Heath Garden) and, even though it does have some inclined and unpaved paths my grandparents were able to manage it without trouble so I’d say it presents a moderate level of difficulty to people with limited mobility but who don’t yet need mobility aids (but obviously I’m not a doctor or someone who can provide an expert opinion so don’t take my word for it).
Like many of the areas in the Gardens, the Chinese Hillside Garden is both an educational and a conservation project. Due to the boom in Western interest in Chinese Medicine a number of plants grown there have been over harvested and are at risk. The Hillside Garden is designed to ensure the plants are preserved while educating the public about them. The Garden itself is a miniature model of a Himalayan mountainside, like a living diagram with each altitude represented as you walk down.
All the plants grown here have a medicinal purpose.
But aesthetics are an integral part of the landscaping with bridges, waterfalls and pools interspersed naturally with the trees and plants.